Review Blog

Nov 19 2009

The Crime Club Scene Series: Fact and Fiction by Kenneth McIntosh

cover image

Mason Crest, 2009. Heinemann.
Cashing in on the obsession with solving crime with forensics, this series of 6 books, nos. 7-12 in the series, have the novel idea of being both fact and fiction. Being about two thirds fiction they will be undoubtedly be catalogued as such, but this type of 'faction' may well be the new novelty. Appealing to both genders, the first part of the book is the adventures of the teen group, the Crime Club, who learn forensic science. Each book deals with a different aspect of forensics. The last third of the book explains the concepts and vocabulary used, chapter by chapter and is well designed and comprehensive. Each book has an excellent Further Reading, Bibliography and Index, albeit very American. The series also boasts a resident consultant who is a Senior Forensic Advisor from the Department of Justice.
The Crime Club consists of 5 teenagers - Lupe, Maeve, Jessa, Ken and Wire from Flagstaff, Arizona, who work with Detective Dorothy Kwan. In the earlier books they find a lost treasure, recover priceless artifacts, solve a cold case and get injured in the process. This is The Secret Seven/Nancy Drew meet the brutal 21st century. Each book centres on a different club member. There are dysfunctional families, murderers,drugs etc etc. Considering how often there's a gun pointed at the gang, it's a miracle they all lived! Of course unlikely coincidences abound,but this is the unreal world counterbalanced by the real world.
Whilst each book has an action packed story which keeps the suspense bubbling, they have a 'worthy' feel, eg a member of the group has an eating disorder, which enables the author to explain this in the notes. This educative agenda seeps into the style of writing which seems to use vocabulary designed to be defined, eg. 'She couldn't answer; she was too scared that the inhalation needed to vocalize would threaten her tenuous grip.' (p28. The Earth cries out.)
Stories are suitable for upper primary and middle school libraries, but some of the explanations would suit middle and upper secondary. Excellent, of course, for someone considering a career in forensics. Another problem is that the books do not open anywhere near flat and are hard to hold open. Although a glossy production, coloured illustrations are crude and cartoon style, and contrast with the photographs in the factual section.

No 7. The Monsoon Murder. Forensic Meteorology. ISBN 9781422208823.
Iraq and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder combine with a drunken mother, murderous uncle and drug selling to put Maeve and brother Lance in danger of being tried for drug possession and murder, until a lucky weather coincidence enables Maeve to put her forensic meteorology to good use. DNA, Chemical signatures, ballistics, alibis, warrants, citizen's arrest, tasers, arraignment and Vietnam are explained.
No 8. If the Shoe Fits. Footwear analysis. ISBN 9781422208779.
Reopening a cold case and discovering the shoe prints used as original evidence have been swapped allows Jessa to explore this aspect of forensics and the complexities of truth. More dysfunctional parents suddenly see the error of their ways. Facts here cover: Sherlock Holmes, DNA, Navaho beliefs, diabetes, nuclear power, OJ Simpson case.
No. 9: The Earth Cries Out. Forensic Chemistry and Environmental Science. ISBN 9781422208786.
Plenty of action here as the group scale a mountain, face a mad bear attack, are nearly blown up and deal with drug manufacturers, hence the chemical analysis. The black bear, crazed by hunger and ingesting drug chemicals, has annoying anthropomorphic thoughts and behavior, which is unexpected in such a series. However, the story moves at a fast pace and romance is thrown in as well. Facts here deal with global warming, GPS, drug chemistry, warrants, hypothermia and hospital waste.
No 10. Things fall Apart. Forensic engineering ISBN 9781422208809.
If you can buy a ghost giving clues as to why and how a funfair ride crashed and that there was no official investigation into it, you may enjoy this tale of investigation into the engineering of a thrill ride.
Facts explored include civil and criminal case difference, cold cases, urban legends, physics, forensic photography, arson and obstructing justice.
No 11.Numbering the Crime. Forensic mathematics. ISBN 9781422208816.
Jessa is abducted and nearly shot, so plenty of detective work here, with Ken the romantic hero and Wire calculating possible distances travelled by the abductors. Facts cover hypotheses, probability, algorithms, Bayesian analysis, apogee, the Jonestown massacre, DNA analysis.
No 12. A Stranger's Voice. Forensic Speech. ISBN 9781422208793.
This is the finale in the series when the club disbands and members go different ways. Cyber crime and computer hacking feature here, with stereotype goodies and baddies, more shoot outs and high tech gadgetry. Throw in the Navejo Way of harmony for good measure. We learn about spectrometers, voice recognition technology, retinal scans, Linux, Java, lie detectors, OPEC and GPS.
Kevyna Gardner

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